Patient Satisfaction the Disney Way

The other day I was visiting a friend in the hospital and down the hallway I could hear a patient screaming to be let out of the hospital. “You can’t keep me in here!” the patient kept yelling. It was a miscarriage of justice, according to the patient, the doctors were plotting, everyone hated the patient, well, you get the idea. Over the next 48 hours, this patient went off in this vein several different times and I found myself feeling very sorry for the nurses who were listening to the same diatribe over and over again.

So I’m wondering what the nurses in this Lansing institution would make of this statement: “Hospitals ‘need to mobilize all of the ‘nice’ that they can muster in all of their employees to ensure that the total experience of the patient satisifies the patients’ expectations.” This is according to Aaron Liberman, a professor of health services administration at the University of Central Florida.

Liberman continues – “If any (employee) happens to say something out of sorts or creates a bit of ill will with that patient, they may damn the entire hospital.”

The interview with Liberman took place as part of a story on how Disney is advising hospitals and patients on improving the patient experience. Andrew Doughman is the reporter and this story was reported in the July 15 edition of the Orlando Sentinel.

So, get this – a hospital can pay $3,500 per person for health care workers to hang out for three days at the Disney Institute as part of the “Building a Culture of Healthcare Excellence” program. Understand that this isn’t a patient care issue, it’s a patient experience issue.

Doughman states that this new Disney program is “designed to teach health-professionals how to make patients as satisfied with a trip to the hospital – or the doctor’s office – as they are with a trip to a Disney theme park.”

Now, why this new program? Because it increases referrals. Happy patients recommend doctors and hospitals to other patients, thereby increasing – exceptional patient care? No, I believe increased profits would be more of the case here!

Another quote for fun: “A guest is someone who is invited,” said Jeff Williford, a Disney Institute instructor. “A customer is someone who complains.”

I would be the first to agree that Disney does a lot of things right when it comes to making their customers, er, guests feel at home but an amusement park is not a hospital and having administrators buy into the whole “guest experience” for patients is foolhardy thinking. First of all, with the possible exception of having a baby, no one is excited to be going into the hospital. You don’t pack up your camera to take pictures of the doctors and nurses and it’s doubtful that the patient is ever going to enter the gift store looking for something with the hospital’s name on it. Rides in a hospital consist of being placed on a guerney and most “family memories” created in hospitals are not the kind you necessary want to put in this year’s holiday newsletter.

It would be interesting to see how the nurses felt they were supposed to deal with the angry patient down the hall. Were they supposed to make sure that the “guest” was having a good time? Were they required to ask 20 questions of the “guest” as to whether they were comfortable or not? Did the “guest” get confused that they were at Disneyworld because the experience was just like being at an amusement park?

This is all bottom-line, profits first-patients second thinking. When the priority becomes people’s opinions rather than their care, we’ve lost sight of the goals of health care. Sometimes saving people means making them extremely ill. Sometimes people are very, very unhappy to be in the hospital. There are not always happy endings at the hospital. You go for care, not for the experience.

Is it wise to have your health care professionals distracted with worrying whether or not the “guest” is happy? Because, in all reality, if the “guest” is treated with clinical expertise, caring and compassion, he’s probably going to be pretty content. And that will be a much better “check” than whether all 20 questions on the “guest” satisfaction checklist were answered.



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3 responses to “Patient Satisfaction the Disney Way

  1. this is absolutely insane~ a hospital is not meant to be a Disney experience, & Nurses already have enough on their hands to worry about. Management & Marketing w.ith excellence in service should be enough for referrals. Give me a break…..;D

  2. Patients are patients, not “guests,” not “customers.” One doesnot take their “vacation” in the hospital for the experience, they go to Disney World for that. We need to focus on care and getting people well or helping them die peacefully with dignity.

  3. Vanessa Cole

    When do the professional staff spend more time advocating their needs and less time complaining? I feel patients as well as caregivers would ultimately gain from this attitude. Ltc’s think and play inside the box. Nursing does not have an adequate or strong balanced system. Where does everyone go but down.

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